Most people use alcohol as a social lubricant, drinking to appear smarter, funnier, more confident at events. In Thomas Vinterberg’s Danish feature film Another Round, four friends decide to use alcohol as a private means of overhauling their entire public persona. Their theory? That a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 will help them feel more “relaxed and creative”. Each of them is a little run-down, tired, staring down a midlife crisis. So they agree. What’s the worst that could happen?
The experiment works swimmingly at first. The protagonist Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a high-school history teacher, finds himself becoming a better partner, teacher and parent. His gait develops a swagger, his monotone lecture voice takes on a more teasing edge. Then the group decides to up the dosage. Their alcohol consumption, already straddling the fine line between sexy and sloppy, doesn’t take long to spiral out of control.
The winner of the Academy Award for Best International Feature this year, Another Round isn’t framed as either a cautionary tale against the excesses of binge drinking or the spirited ode to the benefits of drowning your sorrows. Each man reacts to the feeling of being constantly buzzed in a different way, and by the end, there’s the realization that staying drunk permanently only postpones having to deal with one’s deep-seated sadness, it doesn’t mitigate it completely. Some solutions can’t be found at the bottom of an absinthe bottle. Far from predictable fare, the film is elevated by the performances of the leads, particularly Mikkelsen, whose loose-limbed gracefulness gives the film one of the most joyous endings in recent history.